Senior Briana Manente began acting in middle school when she saw her older sister in a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Since then, she’s acted in what she guesses is 25 or 30 productions and is currently performing the role of Lady Frederick in St. Mary’s production of another Shakespeare classic, As You Like It, her seventh show at St. Mary’s.
After watching her older sister perform, Manente became involved in the Shakespeare Project, a program based in Frederick, Maryland, at age 12. She fell in love with the art and continued acting throughout her grade school years. When she got to St. Mary’s, she said, “I told myself I would audition for every show and if I didn’t get cast I would do something to help out.”
True to her word, she’s been involved in the shows in some way – she’s acted in all but The Bald Soprano, for which she operated the light board. She even acted and sang four songs in Cabaret two years ago, though she’s not a singer. “I had a really wonderful vocal coach…but I’m not musically talented.”
For Manente, acting is all about the experience. “It’s a rewarding moment when you get to walk onstage for the first time, say your first line, and watch the audience track you with their eyes.” Manente describe the “sheer euphoria” of acting and said she feels more like herself onstage performing than when she’s offstage. “[Acting] is the best possible thing… it’s that momentum when you find something you love and it just clicks.”
Manente has acted professionally in three tours, performing with the Maryland Shakespeare Festivals. Of the ten or so shows she’s interned for, three were paid roles – Two Gentlemen of Verona, in which she was Host and an Outlaw, Romeo and Juliet, where she was a Peer and an understudy for Nurse, Tybalt, and Lady Capulet, and As You Like It, in which she played Audrey and understudied Celia and Phebe.
As a Theater and Psychology double major, Manente knows she wants to pursue the theater after college to some degree, though she may not always be acting. “I would love to continue theater in one way, shape, or form,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll always act…but I know it’ll always be there.”